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American Frontier

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American Frontier


Published 1953


Title Card: "American Frontier" and opening credits superimposed over U.S. map.
Film describes events taking place after discovery of oil in Williston Basin, North Dakota.
CU U.S. map with major relief landmarks.
Sweeping LS barren prairie (The Williston Basin of Montana and The Dakotas); grazing cattle dotting prairie. Desolate lake shoreline. CU weed poking through sand or snow. LS sand or snow blowing across desolate road. VS weather-beaten shack. CU wind blowing sand passed barbed-wire fence. LS barren prairie, (pan to) barn; windmill contrasted starkly against barren prairie. LS farming settlement (seen from road). Prairie town (panning shot).
VS man, wearing overcoat and fur hat, looking out at prairie.
Barn and tractor implement blanketed by snow. Cows standing outside barn (wind blowing snow sideways). Farmer closing barn gate during snowstorm; walking on dirt path toward small outbuilding (black dog appears). Horses huddling behind bush. Fallen tree poking from drifting, wind-whipped snow (farm house in BG). CU frozen tree top; CU barren, ice-coated tree during snowfall.
Prairie church (automobiles in parking lot). Preacher standing at church altar, parishioners (in front pews) standing. Parishioners singing (panning shot).
Children playing on swing set and sleds on snow-covered playground (beside one-room schoolhouse).
ECU bell ringing in tower.
Children playing on swing set and sleds on snow-covered playground (beside one-room schoolhouse); abruptly turning and running toward schoolhouse. Children working at desks in classroom. Teacher, sitting at desk, observing children at desks. ECU male teacher (blackboard in BG). CU boy reading and moving his lips; looking up briefly; returning to reading. CU 2 girls working at desks. ECU boy staring blankly o.s. (chin rests in hand). Boy hunching over paper while writing; looking up. Teacher, standing at front of classroom, speaking to students; children standing at their desks; exiting classroom. Teacher straightening his desktop (standing before empty classroom). Teacher looking curiously o.s.
LS man walking around base of small, dome-shaped hill. Man holding (what appears to be) newspaper; glancing at it; looking o.s.; CU man looking o.s. Man climbing hill (aided by small pickaxe).
Drilling crew operating truck-mounted oil rig. MS woman and child observing drilling crew. CU boy, standing on prairie, looking intently o.s. Worker adjusting seismic equipment (mounted on back of truck).
Oil bubbling from ground, then gushing (truck in FG). CU man adjusting seismic equipment (on back of truck); looking up. CU boy, standing on prairie, looking intently o.s.
Teacher turning from desk toward blackboard (erases chalk -- Lewis and Clark expedition); gazing o.s. (while wringing hands).
Several businessmen sitting around conference table (discussing map on table); man pointing to map hanging on wall, then referring back to map on table.
Men fixing barn door; door sliding back and forth on track. CU man fixing sliding door track; turning to look o.s. (suspiciously). MS smiling man sliding door back and forth; turning to look o.s. (with concern).
Automobile (with 2 occupants) pulling beside small house; man getting out of car. Man (on ladder) waving o.s. and smiling; climbing down ladder. 2 men (wearing suits and hats) walking passed car and shaking hands with 2 men; all walking toward house to enter.
Woman pouring coffee and serving 4 men sitting at kitchen table; taking cup of coffee for herself; listening to man speaking. CU middle-aged man proclaiming, "Wheat is good enough for me." CU all speaking in turn. CU middle-aged man winking. 2 men (wearing suits) standing; exiting. CU middle-aged man wagging his finger. Man and woman laughing.
Automobile pulling beside small house (dog crossing); man getting out of car (another car driving away); CU man getting out of car; shaking hands with man.
Teacher standing pensively in front of classroom; absent-mindedly picking up book; staring o.s.
Barn and tractor implement. LS battered windmill (beneath glaring sun). MS abandoned house on prairie. ECU highway sign indicating "Badlands, Blackhills, Denver and Mexico." CU wagon wheels and remains of wagon on prairie. Windmill (low angle shot). LS wheatfield ("...amber waves of grain"). CU wheatfield swaying gently in wind. Grain spilling from mill. LS cattle grazing on prairie.
Man picking up scale-model "Tin Lizzie" and scale-model covered wagon; placing them in glass display case; closing case.
VS man walking toward farm house. Man entering kitchen (middle-aged man sitting at table); woman rushing excitedly to him. CU smiling man and woman; woman reaching for her coat.
2 men and woman pointing and looking upwards (beside drilling rig). Oil drilling rig. VS men working on oil derrick. Heavy equipment being pulled on skid. VS 2 men and woman standing on "Citadel Oil Company" platform; walking down stairs. ECU man welding as sparks fly. Man warming hands over open fire. LS 2 men and woman walking beside pipes; entering house (man closing door and crossing room; all look out window). CU group talking; one man stating, "We're not sure of anything...in this business it's always maybe..." CU woman (with concerned expression) looking o.s. Man looking down at object in palm of hand. CU hands holding Indian arrowhead. CU group smiling.
Man, sitting at table, grading test papers; closing book; looking o.s. curiously; watching woman ironing in kitchen; CU woman working in kitchen (ironing). MS man sitting at table; (pan to) older man, sitting in living room, reading newspaper; CU older man looking up from newspaper; removing eyeglasses; looking o.s. deep in thought. Man, sitting at table, looking upwards; looking o.s. pensively (rubbing face).
2 men standing and talking by storefront (pedestrians passing). 2 men talking in (saddle?) shop. Several men playing table-top, shuffle-puck game (shuffle-board). Clerk (man with rural demeanor; smoking cigarette), at service counter (window), talking to customer. 2 farmers standing beside grain elevator; one tossing handful of grain (wheat).
CU teacher, sitting at desk, sipping milk from carton; children walking behind him; teacher picking up sandwich. CU 2 boys, sitting at desks, eating lunch and talking. ECU smiling boy saying, "...we'll be lucky if we get a wheelbarrow." CU 2 boys sitting at desks and laughing. CU teacher smiling broadly.
Oil drilling rig enveloped in steam. Several men working on drilling rig (2 men observing); CU 2 men discussing o.s. activity they are observing. VS men working on rig; changing pipes and drill bits; worker looking upwards. ECU man looking upwards. VS oil derrick. CU chain. CU spinning oil drill.
Door indicating "Chamber of Commerce". Several people (sitting at conference table) conducting serious meeting. CU 2 (sitting) men; one speaking, "...All right, maybe it will all come to nothing...maybe it's just another false alarm...all I'm saying is...it's important that we plan a little...just in case"; group continuing discussion. CU man speaking seriously.
VS oil rig in gusting snowstorm. VS men working on oil rig; worker blowing on hands and rubbing them together for warmth. VS trucks and automobiles driving on low-visibility, snow-blown highway. Men walking through trailer park in gusting snowstorm. VS oil rig whipped by wind-driven snow. VS worker spraying steam from large hose onto pipes and valves. CU man climbing down ladder on side of derrick. Worker (hard hat), looking o.s. and saying, "Where you going?" Man, stepping from ladder replies, "To get my fur hat". Hard hat asks, "Where's it at?" CU man answering, "In Oklahoma!" CU man, wearing hard hat, looking o.s. with puzzled expression. ECU spinning oil drill.
VS 2 men in office (one sitting at desk; other standing beside); standing man looking out window; picking up object on desk; CU Indian arrowhead. Men talking. CU man looking out window at drilling operation (over standing man's shoulder).
2 women and man talking and laughing on street. Clerk talking to man in shoe store while adjusting shoe on man's foot. Barber cutting man's hair. Service station attendant washing automobile windshield for smiling driver (seen from front seat, through windshield).
Idled oil derrick (Low shot, looking upward from base of platform).
Several automobiles parked beside trailer in field; people getting out of cars (as though arriving at an event).
VS workers standing beside large mud pit (resembles oozing, toxic waste dump). Several people, gathering by automobiles, anxiously watching o.s. CU worker climbing outdoor staircase. 2 workers beside valves and gauge; worker slowly turning valve. Worker atop diesel generator checking fluid levels. 2 men and woman looking expectantly o.s. ECU man, wearing fur hat, looking anxiously o.s. ECU woman, wearing kerchief, looking anxiously o.s. 2 workers looking anxiously o.s. 2 workers beside valves and gauge; worker rapidly turning valve. VS steam spewing violently from pipe; CU boots walking passed. VS several people, gathered by automobiles (kissing, shaking hands and celebrating). ECU older man saying, "By golly, this is a lot of oil to drink"; (shot pulls back to include) older man, young man and woman laughing heartily.
Woman, sitting at telephone switchboard, covering telephone and relaying message to man standing behind her; man reaching for, and picking up telephone; sitting and talking on telephone. Masthead of Williston Daily Herald (newspaper headline "Oil Struck in Williston Basin"). ECU snarled wires of busy telephone switchboard. CU busy telephone operator.
VS automobiles and pedestrians (nighttime -- flashing neon lights in BG). Car driving passed "The Plainview Hotel" (nighttime -- neon sign).
Crowded hotel lobby (people checking in at front desk). ECU shoes; cowboy boots.
ECU automobile and truck license plates from Texas, New York and Wyoming.
Locomotive belching soot and/or steam at railroad siding. People beside train stopped at railway station.
Man getting out of small, single-engine airplane.
LS supply yard (piles of oil pipes and other equipment). Workers rolling pipes from top of pile.
Truck driving along snow-blown highway. Pickup trucks and automobiles driving on muddy street toward railroad crossing (moving train in BG).
Man walking upstairs to office displaying sign for "Atlas Petroleum." CU sign indicating "Dormont Oil Company" and "Burns Petroleum Corporation."
Man, carrying armload of books, entering crowded "Register of Deeds" room (where several men are reading from oversized record books); CU men at table reading from oversized record books.
2 men talking (while standing beside automobile).
Carpenters erecting framing for new house.
Teacher walking through classroom (children sitting at desks).
Citizens at town meeting (could be used as courtroom footage) listening attentively to o.s. speaker. VS men sitting at dais; man standing at dais speaking to o.s. audience. 2 older women, sitting in audience, listening attentively. VS men sitting at dais; man, standing at dais, speaking to o.s. audience; sits; another man rising to speak. Man in audience standing and asking, "I was just wondering...how long is all this going to last." MS men at dais; man sits; prior man rising to speak. CU man and woman (in audience) listening attentively. VS audience listening attentively (could be used as courtroom footage).
Farmer (with pitchfork) feeding hay to cow beside barn; glancing skyward. Farmer, squinting from bright sunlight, following path of airplane flying overhead.
Man turning valve on pipe stem (pipe poking from barren, snow-covered prairie). LS oil pumping facility (resembles barn and silo) starkly contrasted against barren, snow-covered prairie. MS small, oil pumping facility.
Man standing atop railroad tanker car, filling it with oil from pipe. Train slowly passing industrial facility (snow-covered landscape).
Woman (sweeping side porch) looking o.s. as man and dog appear. CU smiling man and woman looking o.s. LS train, belching sooty smoke, slowly moving across prairie. CU smiling man and woman looking o.s. LS small farm (with windmill), as seen across road (several mailboxes atop wagon wheel in FG).
Several children, bundled in winter coats, walking along rural road; children running toward building. Man standing and waving in front of one-room schoolhouse (with bell tower); man waving at boy to run from schoolhouse. Truck parked on dirt road; boy (accompanied by man) running toward truck; driver rolling down window (door painted with telephone number "494"); driver handing box (lunch box) to man; man handing box to boy; boy running o.s.; man turning to speak with truck driver.
Man working atop oil storage tank. MS man riveting oil storage tank.
CU man operating surveying equipment; waving to assistant o.s.
Man working on electric or telephone pole.
Worker handling pipes in supply yard (with cable and pulleys). Workers rolling pipes with feet. Oil derrick.
Man, standing in pasture (cows grazing in BG), looking o.s.
Man looking skyward (American flag waving in BG).
CU icicles melting from eaves of roof.
VS children playing in playground on slide, rings, swings, etc.; boy removing coat and hat; running to join other children.
Ice melting in shimmering water. VS stream flowing with winter ice melt. Stream flowing across prairie. VS prairie with oil derrick in BG.
Title Card: "The End"...Oil Industry Information Committee of the American Petroleum Institute, Copyright 1953.


Producer Affiliated Film Producers
Sponsor American Petroleum Institute, Oil Industry Information Committee
Audio/Visual sound, color

Credits

Director: Willard Van Dyke. Production: Ricky Leacock.

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Reviews

Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 25, 2013
Subject: "Promised Land" - 50 years earlier.
This film, about a small town's anxiety about the Big Oil Company's hustling into town looking for oil, is quite remarkable, if you compare it to Gus Van Sant's Fracking-For-Natural-Gas drama "Promised Land" 50 years ago. Only in "American Frontier", everyone's all gung ho for the oil companies doing who knows what to the land all for the name of $$$$. Everyone in the town is seemingly blind to any adverse effects it might have on the environment. Quite an interesting little film.
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